As with , I took part in Reverse Thieves' project this Christmas! If you don't already know, it's when a bunch of anibloggers secretly gift each other three anime recommendations (obviously with the 'Santa' kept secret), with the stipulation that recipients have to watch at least one of them and post up a review.
Last year worked out pretty well for me, as I ended up enjoying two out of the three gifted to me a great deal. This year I received Michiko to Hatchin, Gankutsuou and HeatGuy J. I actually already had Gankutsuou downloaded with plans to watch at some point, and had heard of Michiko to Hatchin already (having passed it up for some reason or another when I was indirectly recommended it a couple of years back), but HeatGuy J was a complete mystery to me. A pretty good spread of familiarity if you ask me, and ideal considering I was going to be watching all three of them, much like last year.
Unfortunately, real life had other plans, and I straight up did not have the time to watch more than one of them. Now that I'm in my final year the uni work got quite heavy, and I was also rocking a pretty bad Dark Souls addiction. Still, I was able to watch one of them, at least fulfilling my obligations! So I'd like to offer an apology to my Santa - I wanted to watch all three of them, I really did! And I'll get round to them at some point - I have all three downloaded. But maybe giving me three 2-cours series was not a great idea?
In the end I decided to go with Michiko to Hatchin, partially because it wasn't already on my backlog, partially because the premise sounded pretty cool, partially because it was only 22 episodes, and partially because it was the only available in 720p.
Michiko to Hatchin is good! It's very good! In brief, it's about a woman - the eponymous Michiko - who breaks out of prison and rescues/kidnaps her daughter - the eponymous Hatchin, but she'd rather be referred to as Hana - from an abusive foster family, with the two of them setting across South America in search of Hiroshi Morenos, Hana's father, who was thought to have died in a bus bombing.
'Unique' is probably the best way to describe this series, especially in the context of anime. For a start it's set exclusively in Latin America, which you just never see in the medium ever. The occasional scene or sequence, sure, but never only there, and certainly never while being as entrenched in the culture. And the tone, the style, the feel of the story and its execution is really different. I guess it can best be thought of as something of a mix of Cowboy Bebop, Black Lagoon, and some series that focuses on the guardian/child dynamic, such as Kure-nai. The Cowboy Bebop side comes from the general progression of the story (although Michiko to Hatchin is less episodic) and the offbeat, stylised and culture-influenced direction (the amazing soundtrack by Shinichiro Watanabe - the director of Cowboy Bebop - certainly helps). The Black Lagoon aspect comes from the fact that the story is very focused on the gritty, seedy, underworld of Latin America, with gang crime being a big theme and the root of a lot of plot points. Oh, and Michiko comes across as a more vain, less smart, less skilled and less nihilistic Revy. Kure-nai (and similar series) obviously factors in with the fact that it's a story about a mother and her daughter against the world.
There's a lot to like about Michiko to Hatchin. The relatively episodic nature means a lot of little stories get told and we get to see a lot of different sides to all the characters, and get to experience a lot of different tones and moods, but there's also a definite, real sense of progression and focus - there's a goal, and it's being gunned for the entire time, and so many things help tie the episodes together really neatly. It's easily one of the better executions of an episodic series with an overarching narrative I've seen.
The characters are really enjoyable, and super varied. Michiko I've already described, and her ability to rush into every situation utterly headstrong, self-confident and full of swagger is never not entertaining, whether she succeeds or completely fails. Hana is pretty bratty and stubborn, but also surprisingly adult and mature (often being the one to earn money for the two of them). The two of them have a fantastic dynamic, caring for each other a lot but nearly always fighting and arguing - but what do you expect considering that they're both mature and incredibly childish in equal measure?
The secondary characters are all quite interesting in their own right, impacting and influencing the plot in some meaningful, clever and occasionally unexpected ways. Atsuko (AKA 'Jumbo') is an old friend of Michiko's from their days on the streets turned police inspector, who spends the entire series hunting for her to drag her back to prison. Satoshi is an old acquaintance of Michiko's and considered Hiroshi to be his best friend, back when they were in the 'Monstro' gang - which he now heads. And he's also on the hunt for Michiko, but sort of also Hiroshi. And then there's a bunch of other characters, incidental or otherwise, that all add to the thrill of this multi-faceted chase. It's a good dynamic that this show has going on between them all; that a core group of them are somewhat persistent throughout the entire show does lend it a solid sense of cohesiveness.
Michiko to Hatchin is a good show, and if you're a fan of Cowboy Bebop and/or Black Lagoon I HIGHLY recommend checking it out. It has a unique flavour within the world of anime, and has quite an interesting take on the criminal elements of its plot. But the relationship between Michiko and Hana is the real highlight of this series and is pretty well-developed, with both of them changing subtly but meaningfully over the story's duration. There's great action, some excellent tension and intrigue, and a really positive, lovely heart. So thank you, Santa! This recommendation was a real success!